Erich Briehl is a young entrepreneur from Canada who has lived in Merida for seven years. He spoke to TYT recently as part of the on-going “Expat Avenue” series of interviews and profiles of prominent expatriates in Merida.
1. How long have you lived in Merida?
I have been living here for seven years.
2. What attracted you to move here?
I have had a lot of people ask me this question. Basically, Merida was a new and unknown place to me. I had never been to Mexico in my life, let alone even heard of Merida, and when my partner and I decided that it was time to move from where we were living, Mexico seemed like the ideal destination.
Why Merida? Well it’s not Cancun…and believe me we did consider living on that side of the peninsula at one time. I liked what I read about the history and culture of the place, and especially that it was never going to snow. Being from Canada, this is important.
3. From where did you relocate?
Prior to living in Merida, my partner and I lived in Tokyo, Japan from 2006-2009, and before that, in Toronto, Canada.
4. How does Merida compare to other places you’ve lived regarding issues like security, services, utilities, medical facilities, air connectivity etc?
If you come from a society or culture that is constantly GO GO GO, Merida is a place that you will re-learn the meaning of patience. The infrastructure is constantly undergoing upgrades and services can vary here depending on where you live in town. For the most part they are good, but with lots of room for improvement.
Regarding medical services, I would have to say they are top notch. Merida is a hot-spot for medical studies, and as people know, we have one of the few hospitals in the country that is certified to handle a United States president (Star Medica).
Security here has never been an issue. Like anywhere you have crimes of opportunity and areas of town that you would not go to after certain hours, but by and large we feel quite safe here. The police are as helpful as they can be and some even are fluent in English.
Lastly about air connectivity – this is starting to improve a lot. Recently with several new air carriers offering new direct routes to the USA and Canada and they have opened the market to more tourism and snowbirds looking to avoid flying into Cancun and taking the 4 hour bus ride across the Peninsula. I now have a direct flight to visit family back in Toronto (albeit seasonal at the moment).
5. Have you noticed improvements in any important areas during the time you’ve lived here?
Like I mentioned before, infrastructure (electricity, water, cable/phone/internet) has been improving some, and is definitely leaps ahead of where it was seven years ago.
There has been more action from the local government to improve roads and major arteries as traffic in town can get really busy at times. The gastronomical choices have certainly grown in town as well. New chains and boutique restaurants have been popping up, offering choices for every type of “foodie” out there.
6. Would you recommend Merida as a place of residence to friends and relatives?
I certainly would recommend Merida as somewhere to live. For how long depends on the person. I do suggest that you do your due diligence on ANY place you are considering living, before you move there. In the Yucatan Peninsula we have 2 seasons… hot and VERY HOT.
If you can’t handle mosquitoes, heavy rains, humidity, and summers where it’s hot enough to cook an egg on the sidewalk, this may not be the place for you. Granted our November thru April season is quite nice, and can offer refuge for migrating wildlife (and snowbirds) from the hard northern winters.
There are lots of organizations that expats can take advantage of while they are here, such as volunteer work, learning Spanish, and general community outreach. If your plan is to relax and enjoy life in the tropics, this is the best place to do it.
7. As a young entrepreneur, how hard has it been to open the market in Yucatán, and what is the difference between Yucatecans and expats as target markets?
My company “Bulldog Group” is engaged in several activities here in Yucatan. Currently we are the financial backers of Mexican Solar Solutions (www.mexicansolarsolutions.com), a renewable energy company specializing in solar panels, solar heating, and renewable energy solutions.
We also are the distributor of Yucabam: Organic Bamboo Lump Charcoal, which is locally made and harvested. It’s not easy breaking into a new market, especially when you are not a local or even a national.
It takes a lot of dedication to your vision and your business, and you are constantly fighting to get the word out about your product or service. It’s true this market is a “strive or starve” one. I have seen my fair share of businesses open up with great intentions but soon enough collapse due to one thing or another (sometimes complacency, or not judging the needs of the market).
Yucatecans, like North American consumers are always on the hunt for the best quality product for the best price. I firmly believe by diversifying “Bulldog Group”, and offering high quality products and services, has been the key for me in being a successful entrepreneur. I love what I do and I believe in what I sell, and I’m sure my passion for my business shows.
8. Have you found Mexico as an attractive destination for investment? Why?
Because the type of entrepreneur that I am, I see Mexico as a very good place for investing. It’s got many undiscovered niches for people to invest in (passively or actively).
Even investment in real estate is a good buy here, as Merida has a very strong rental market for vacationers and travelers. If you can put your mind to it and see your idea through to fruition, any business can surely succeed here.
The laws are fair, setting up a business is not complicated, and as I stated before, there are so many untapped markets waiting for budding entrepreneurs to discover them.
Interview by Alejandro Azcárate for TYT
The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of The Yucatan Times.
To contact Mexican Solar Solutions click here
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